Tapenade: A taste of the Mediterranean in the Midwest

I don’t know when or where I discovered this delicious spread or what motivated me to make it, but I can’t seem to keep it around the house lately. I go through food stages, but I think this one is healthy enough to keep in the regular food-prep rotation. It has lots of good fats(mono-unsaturated)due to the olives, anchovies and olive oil, and it adds many layers of flavor to whatever I add it to. I use it in place of anything I spread mayonnaise on, or I top my eggs or pasta with it.

While olives, capers and anchovies(if using) are salty, and I don’t like salt, Cook’s Illustrated(no, I do not work for them, but I would like to) to the rescue again. A recipe, in the November and December issue, had a method for reducing the saltiness with the surprising addition of pine nuts.  The recipe calls for un-roasted pine nuts but guess what I had in the freezer?  And let me warn you about the price of organic pine nuts; gulp, expect to pay $20.00/lb. Thankfully we only need a 1/3 of a Cup. Traditionally the tapenade has high-quality olives, capers and anchovies.  I adjusted the Cook’s recipe and left out the anchovies in order to make it vegetarian but feel free to add them back in–it’s good with them in. I also either leave the olive oil out completely or just add in a tablespoon.  Experiment and tweak to taste

I recently made olive tapenade for a food day at work.  I topped some of my Lavash Crackers(check earlier blog)with the tapenade and some with my homemade mozzarella(future blog entry), and I was surprised by how many people were not familiar with this flavorful, French spread.  Well, I am here to introduce this Mediterranean taste-bud treat to you. This is a very bold flavor and you better like olives, but promise me, you’ll try it.  We all need a taste of  Southern France at various times in our lives, and I need it now to get through this bone-chillin’ Midwest deep-freeze. And who knows, maybe this will become your new comfort food too.

Take a 1/3 Cup pine nuts, un-roasted and grind to a paste.

Add the rest of  the ingredients to the food processor: kalamata olives, salt-cured black olives, capers, 2 anchovy fillets(not pictured), Dijon mustard and garlic.

Pulse 15 times until finely chopped.

After resting in the fridge for 18 hours, I can barely wait the full 18 hours, but here it is spread on bagel chips. It tastes better than it looks–really.

Black Olive Tapenade

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

The tapenade must be refrigerated for at least 18 hours before serving. It’s important to use untoasted pine nuts in this recipe so that they provide creaminess but little flavor of their own. We prefer the rich flavor of kalamata olives, but any high-quality brine-cured black olive, such as niçoise, Sicilian, or Greek, can be substituted. Do not substitute brine-cured olives for the salt-cured olives. Serve the tapenade as a spread with sliced crusty bread or as a dip with raw vegetables.



In food processor fitted with metal blade, process pine nuts until reduced to paste that clings to walls and avoids blade, about 20 seconds. Scrape down bowl to redistribute paste and process until paste again clings to walls and avoids blade, about 5 seconds. Repeat scraping and processing once more (pine nuts should form mostly smooth, tahini-like paste).

2. Scrape down bowl to redistribute paste and add olives, capers, anchovies, mustard, and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, about 15 pulses, scraping down bowl halfway through pulsing. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and stir in oil until well combined.

3. Transfer to container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 18 hours or up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature and stir thoroughly before serving.

*Recipe copied from the Cook’s Illustrated website: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/7413-black-olive-tapenade

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.